Thursday, January 23, 2014

Photo Essay: Fender Factory & Custom Shop Tour

I figured if I'd already visited the factory of Taylor Guitars, best-known for their acoustic instruments, I might as well also go to Fender...



...to see how they manufacture sold-body electric guitars like the Stratocaster and the Telecaster.



Their Corona, CA facility is unique partially because of their custom shop, where you can get brand new guitars already "worn" to your liking (including some reproductions of famous musician guitars, with the exact same scratches and digs).



You can also completely customize your own guitar, which they'll build to your exact specifications.



But that's only for really advanced guitar players and collectors. First, you have to understand what the parts are, how they work, and how they make the guitar sound.



At Fender, there's a lot of focus on the hardware of the guitar...



...like the pickguard.



At their flagship U.S. factory in Corona (they also have a facility in Ensenada, Mexico)...



...these bins of raw materials...



...which are mostly new, but some vintage for their vintage series guitars...



...are transformed into guitars, bass guitars, and amps.



In the woodmill...



...you can witness the beginnings of the guitar bodies (mostly made of alder, maybe ash or poplar)...



...and the necks (generally maple)...



...which are eventually screwed in to the body...



...though occasionally set in (with some wood glue) to the body of a Stratocaster.



Here, they also place the frets into the fretboard by hand.



Using a variety of machinery...



...and hand-held mechanical sanders...



...they get the bodies ready for being sanded by hand...



...a refined process where human sanders can tell just by feel what the right amount of sanding is to make each guitar body identical to all of the others (in the same model type).



Once the sanded bodies (which have been carefully sculpted into shape) are smooth and complete...



...they're ready for their paint job...



...which starts with three layers of primer coating, two of which are buffed down to one remaining, coat.



The bodies are then painted and buffed. Although a variety of colors are available, their most popular color selection by far is the tri-tone, three-color sunburst...



...which is sprayed on by hand with great precision.



Once the guitars bodies are painted, they are hung (way up in the ceiling!) to dry, and then assembled with their necks and hardware, inspected and tested.



They are then played to make sure they are perfect...



...and, if they are, packaged, shipped, and sold.

Most people probably know Fender guitars not because they themselves have played one, or because they know someone who owns one, but because of the celebrities that have used them in their recordings and performances. From Buddy Holly to Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix, the Fender guitar - particularly the Stratocaster - has become an icon for rock and roll itself, as much as the cowboy hat is for the Old West.

If you're lucky enough to get one (especially a custom one), just don't get carried away and set yours on fire.

Related Post:
Photo Essay: Taylor Guitars Factory Tour
Photo Essay: Deering Banjo Company Factory Tour